Big progress on trade deal with China: Trump

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump in Beijing last year. Mr Xi said they hope to push for stable progress in US-China ties.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump in Beijing last year. Mr Xi said they hope to push for stable progress in US-China ties.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US leader's remark comes after phone conversation with President Xi Jinping ahead of talks in Beijing in early Jan

WASHINGTON/BEIJING • US President Donald Trump said he had spoken at length with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday and that "big progress" is being made towards a deal between the world's largest economies.

The agreement will be "very comprehensive" and will cover "all subjects, areas and points of dispute", Mr Trump said in a tweet.

His comment comes as a United States trade delegation prepares to travel to Beijing early next month for talks with Chinese officials. The call was another sign that tensions may be cooling after months of brinkmanship, and that the leaders are following through on commitments made at their dinner meeting in Buenos Aires on Dec 1.

Mr Xi said both he and Mr Trump hope to push for "stable progress" in US-China relations, and that bilateral ties are now at a vital stage, according to a Xinhua news agency report on the leaders' phone call.

Mr Xi added that he and Mr Trump discussed various international and regional issues, that China supports further talks between the US and North Korea and hopes for positive results, Xinhua reported.

It was unclear who initiated the call on Saturday. The White House, which typically does not release details of Mr Trump's calls with foreign leaders beyond what the President reveals himself, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday that the two countries' relationship had endured storms before, but that strong ties were im-portant for the economies of both nations and for ensuring global stability and peace.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that Sino-American ties now "stand at a historic new starting point" and that the two sides should respect each other's sovereignty, security and development interest and appropriately manage differences.

MANAGING DIFFERENCES

Both sides should stick to rationally and objectively viewing the other side's strategic intentions, strengthen strategic communication and promote strategic mutual trust to prevent strategic misjudgments.

MR LU KANG, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, on ties between China and the United States.

"Both sides should stick to rationally and objectively viewing the other side's strategic intentions, strengthen strategic communication and promote strategic mutual trust to prevent strategic misjudgments," Mr Lu said in a statement.

Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that a US government delegation will travel to Beijing in the week of Jan 7 for talks, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish will lead the team, which will include Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs David Malpass, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, whom Mr Trump named to be in charge of the China talks, is not scheduled to join the delegation.

 
 
 
 

The gathering will be the first face-to-face discussion between the two sides since Mr Trump and Mr Xi agreed to a 90-day truce during the Buenos Aires dinner.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Dec 18 that the US and China have held discussions over the phone since then.

Mr Xi said on Saturday that officials from both countries have been working actively and hoped the teams can meet each other halfway, Xinhua reported.

Negotiators on both sides have begun fleshing out a possible deal that includes ensuring greater access for foreign companies to China's financial sector, but Mr Trump may be overstating how close the countries are to agreement, The Wall Street Journal reported late on Saturday, citing people familiar with the state of negotiations.

Beijing had announced a third round of tariff cuts, saying that it would lower import taxes on more than 700 goods from tomorrow as part of its efforts to open up the economy and lower costs for domestic consumers.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has agreed to put on hold a scheduled increase in tariffs on some US$200 billion (S$274 billion) in annual imports from China while the negotiations take place.

He is pushing the Asian nation to reduce trade barriers and stop the alleged theft of intellectual property. Beijing so far has pledged to resume buying US soya beans and to at least temporarily lower retaliatory tariffs on US vehicles.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2018, with the headline 'Big progress on trade deal with China: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe